September 28, 2004
Felly Smith 541-593-6119
Local Drum Maker Joins Grateful Dead Drummer
for World Record
Artisan and drum maker Felly Smith, and his wife Maria Petro, of Bend, recently helped Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, and his Planet Drum team to break the Guiness Book of World Records for the largest drum circle ever.
The event took place September 18th in Laytonville, California during Earthdance, a 3 day festival that occured simultaneously in 130 cities spread across 50 countries. Smith was commissioned by Mickey Hart to make many of the drums used by the Planet Drum team to lead the drum circle of 4,504 people.
“Mickey was super cool to us and gave us full access to his backstage tent, where a lot of the world’s best drummers were hanging out. We were able to meet the guys we had made instruments for, and turn still others onto our drums for the first time.”
The event represented a reunion of the Planet Drum team after almost a decade. Felly has made drums for many of them, including Hart, Airto Moreira, Zakir Hussain, African drumming star Sikiru Adepojou, and the hottest conga player in the world, Giovanni Hidalgo. Backstage, Smith sold drums to three more stars, including Karl Perazzo of the Carlos Santana Band, and Jorge Bermudez and Greg Ellis, both acclaimed Los Angeles studio percussionists and Planet Drum members.
“I’m not sure how to express what it feels like to have all these guys digging my drums so well. I mean, I lay out a selection of drums, and step back and watch as each player gravitates toward the one that speaks to them the way they like to be spoken to. It makes me feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing.”
Smith and his company, HandMade Rhythm, have been making waves in the industry ever since Modern Drummer magazine did a product review and found the instruments to be “…the best made drums we’ve ever seen.” A reprint of the article is posted on Smith’s website, www.handmaderhythm.com. After receiving his HandMade Rhythm Ashiko drum, Mickey Hart told Felly in an email, “This drum seems to play itself.” In July of this year, Hart agreed to meet with Felly and Maria backstage during The Dead concert at The Gorge Amphitheater in Washington state. It was then that Hart commissioned the Earthdance drums and requested that each one be carved prominently with the recipient’s name around the bottom. Smith left that job to his wife, Maria, who “did the best job I could ever have imagined,” said Smith. Felly has also made drums for Cougar Estrada of Los Lobos and Michael Travis of the String Cheese Incident.
HandMade Rhythm makes “Ashiko” drums, an afro-cuban style of instrument that is rope tensioned with the age-old Mali weave technique. They are 12” across the top, 23” tall, and taper down to about 5” at the bottom. The drums range in price from $250 to over $1,000. They are available locally at Artscapes Northwest in Bend or by visiting www.handmaderhythm.com.
Felly Smith can be reached by calling 541-593-6119.